It’s possible that there is an Android Factory Reset Fault found by researchers at Cambridge University which would mean that your data can still be accessed even after you’ve supposedly run a factory reset on your device.
Android Factory Reset Fault found:
A group at Cambridge University have tested 21 devices ranging from Android 2.3 to 4.3 and a range of manufacturers. The team estimate that approximately 500 to 630 Million Android devices could be effected by the fault.
The team had 21 devices which had already been through a factory reset and were able to recover at least part of the personal details ranging from photos, videos, texts and emails and data from third-party apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp. What’s more concerning is that some of these devices had full-disk encryption. They were even able to recover the master token needed to access all Google user data in at least 80% of the devices.
So why is that happening? The researches said that manufacturers don’t always load the drivers to completely wipe data from the device. It doesn’t help that SD cards are also notoriously difficult to wipe clean.
At this time, there has been no comment from Google or the manufacturers involved about this Android Factory Reset fault, but with the upcoming rumours that Android M is coming, it’s hopeful that Google or the manufacturers are going to have a good look at the data from the team and resolve the issues pointed out in the report.
In the mean time, what can you do to protect your data? You can always encrypt your data with a ridiculously hard and tough password (using lower case, upper case letters, numbers and other characters) before discarding your old device, then resetting the device. This will mean that your device is still vulnerable, but with less chance of cracking it. Of course, for most of us, there is less to be concerned about, as the researchers used sophisticated recovery software to find the data. Your average person who buys a second-hand device in the shop isn’t going to try to data mine the new device. If you want to guarantee your data is safe when discarding an Android device is to… Take a nail, a hammer and drive it through the device, as close to the SD card as possible.